Empowering Women Through Stock Photos

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It is important to give people images like themselves that they can look up to, and identify with. It’s why dolls have been created in all skin, hair color, and eye shade combinations (hello American Girl!). It’s why there is constant pressure in the media for magazines and ads to use “real” looking women. It’s why people fight for diversity of lead roles in movies. And now, the new frontier is those stock photos that you see popping up all over corporate PowerPoints, and that are often mined to accompany blog posts much like this one. You may have noticed that all of the “working women” photos are weirdly homogeneous (just google working women and click over to the images tab). All of the ladies are wearing navy or black suits, have perfectly done hair and makeup, and most often are sitting by a computer. While it’s great to see women associated with technology, these images just don’t realistically reflect most working ladies of today. I mean, Hillary can sure pull off a pants suit, but when is the last time you saw the average Jane dressed like that for the office? And are you sure she even works in an office?

Now LeanIn.org and Getty images are out to change all that. The two powerhouses have teamed up to push out images of working women in a variety of environments that actively break out of the stereotypes of traditionally female work. They will showcase female soldiers, bakers, hunters, and surgeons. You can view the collection, and purchase images here. The goal is to tell women and girls that they can be the things they can’t typically find images of, and additionally the LeanIn.org has created two new grants that will focus on creating visual campaigns and photographs covering news about women. Huzzah for opening minds and doors to women’s work.

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The Many Squeals of Women – Decoded

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I’m a pretty enthusiastic person in general. I tend to overuse exclamation points, even though I know it’s grammatically incorrect. I have been known to jump up and down and clap when I’m really excited, and there is a pretty regular occurrence in my life that I refer to as the happy dance. My friends husbands always say that we sound like a pack of chickens when we get together, just squeaking louder and louder over each other until it’s a gentle roar of how thrilled we are to see each other. So I thoroughly enjoyed this post on NY Mag The Cut that breaks down the different types of squeals that women make. They might get on some people’s nerves, but sometimes you just don’t want to keep all that excitement inside. Here’s how the author sees them as especially effective ways to communicate:

  • The Uncontainable Squeal: You’re just SO excited that you can’t contain yourself. I usually do this when someone finally caves and agrees to go on a trip with me, or I get JUST the Christmas present I hoped for, but forgot to put on my list.
  • Squeal for Sisterhood: Women shriek for other women even though they know it particularly irritates men. In this case, the squealing signals that they care about the people they’re with so much, and the thing they’re collectively excited about that they’re not even worried about all the men they are pissing off.
  • The Non-Specific Squeal: When you don’t have anything to say, shriek. You’re excited, but your bestie already knows you love her and support her –instead of saying it again, just make some loud noises and maybe jump up and down to get your point across.
  • Squeal as a Social Lubricant: Guys fist bump about sports with near strangers. Women enjoy high-pitched yells to bond with people they might not know all that well, but want to include in the group.
  • Squeal Qua Squeal: Just like smiling at someone makes you feel good too, squealing with someone makes you even more excited than before you squealed. Just take a few minutes to enjoy the good feeling.

For those of you who have wondered at the various ways women squeal, and what they mean, there you have it. They’re a great way to show excitement, express our love for each other, and include others in the collective joy –squealing decoded.

How Americans Really Feel About Female Leadership

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With all of the focus on women in the workplace that the Lean In movement generated, a natural area for investigation is the lady boss. With all the encouragement for women to strive for the corner office, there is bound to be exploration into what it’s like to work for, and have a woman in charge. Luckily, there is Gallup poll data evaluating how people in 2013 feel about working for a woman instead of a man when compared to how they felt in 1953. As you’d imagine, there have been some noticeable changes.

The Atlantic analyzed the data, and found a few interesting trends. First, more than half of all people (in all of the demographic groupings) preferred a lady boss, as opposed to earlier times when 2/3 of people preferred working under men. Surprisingly, one of the two groups with the lowest percentage of people wanting female leadership was women. The other group, somewhat unsurprisingly, was Republicans. Finally, there are two groups who want a woman in charge more than the others: Democrats, and people who have previously had a female boss. That, to me, says once you try it, you’ll probably like it– all the more ammunition to give women more access to leadership positions.

Like Kickstarter for Women Entrepreneurs

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So, you like Kickstarter, but you’re looking for a way to invest in something you believe in – like women…now you can easily find projects by female entrepreneurs all in one lovely place. It’s called Plum Alley. It launched as an e-commerce site, and you can still shop its curated list of products ranging from accessories to homewares. But now they’ve added a new component to the site, allowing for crowd-funding. It follows the business model of Kickstarter and indiegogo, but hones in on the all lady entrepreneurial projects. Research shows that only 16% of businesses looking for financial backing are backed by females, and of that 16%, only 24% received the funding they needed. Plum Alley not only provides access to these funds via crowd sourcing, but also provides experts in various industries to tap for advice to succeed. Here’s to hoping it pays off, and if you don’t want to sponsor a project, you can at least get a jump start on your Christmas shopping!

Street Art to Fight Street Harassment

street artI have lived in several neighborhoods around New York, where walking down the street was a daily challenge to ignore that catcalls tossed my way. While the attention can be flattering (rarely), it can be straight up offensive or even scary, and it’s mostly a nuisance. Can’t a girl just go to the subway in peace? And, really, how are you supposed to respond to several men just randomly tossing words your way? Talking back would just invite more uninvited conversation, or in the worst case, could lead to aggression. No one really wants to stop, and launch into a 10 minute explanation of why it is insulting and demeaning to holler at ladies walking down the street. While I got used to just pretending I didn’t hear it and always keeping my headphones in, (though I actively wondered if any women were like, YES you called me pretty, I WILL stop and talk to you), after moving to an area where people no longer yell to me on the street, I realized how relaxing it was, and that the simple behavior was really a form of harassment that kept me tense an on edge. There was no good response.

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Now artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has taken her work to the streets to call attention to street harassment, and put a voice to all the words that women were thinking, but were too intimidated/in a rush/annoyed to say. Her portraits feature strong, defiant women looking you in the eye, and remind you that women walking down the street don’t owe other pedestrians and lurkers a thing. She wants to point out that women aren’t responsible for smiling, or providing an emotional response just because guys feel like noticing them. They are modeled after real women, and their encounters to capture multi-background and cross-neighborhood experiences.

She hopes to expand her work to capture even more diverse experiences of how women of different races, sexualities, and classes experience harassment, and how women interact with others in public spaces. For now? I am just happy that what myself and my friends have so often thought is now being put into plain view. And, if you happen to see one pop up in your neighborhood, just point to it for your street harassers to read as you walk by. The pictures will do the responding for you. Check out more photos from her collection here.

Women’s Immunity Stays Stronger, Longer

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It’s fairly common knowledge that women tend to, as a general rule, outlive men. Now research completed in Japan is hinting at why. Women tend to have stronger immune systems for longer, which makes them more able to fight off and recover from disease until a more advanced age. This may be the key to their greater longevity. The research found that as women aged, multiple important kinds of white blood cells, those little warriors responsible for defending against infectious diseases, decreased at a lower rate in women than in men. Additionally, another type of immune cell that fights viruses and tumors increases more quickly in women than in men. The combination results in a stronger immune system as women grow older than men.

At Least You’re Not Pregnant?

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I can’t even tell you how many times I went to the health center on my college campus for a cold and a cough, and ended up being questioned about my sex life. Their go-to diagnosis was, “Well, she’s probably pregnant (or if not, maybe she has an std).” I always assumed it was because I attended a Jesuit university that the nurses were a little paranoid about sex outside of marriage, and wanted to discourage it at all costs–even when it was not medically implied.  Yet, this article on Women In The World of The Daily Beast and a more recent health care experience made me realize that maybe it’s a phenomenon other than that. For me, in college this line of questioning was nothing more than a minor annoyance/funny story to tell in the caf about the health center’s continued incompetence.  Both of my parents are medical professionals, so I learned about your more basic illnesses and how they should be treated at a fairly young age. With that knowledge, I was able to bring the nurses around to medicating my true illness (usually a sinus infection) without a lot of unnecessary pregnancy tests.

But for some, it isn’t that simple. When doctors jump to the conclusion that all young women are, to quote the author of the article, “reckless harlots,” it can jeopardize their health by ignoring the real problem, create unnecessary stress, fear and shame, and subject women to needless (and often costly) medical procedures. What is going on in medicine today that leads practitioners to lean towards sexual shaming when ladies visit the doctor’s for unrelated ailments? And are men being subjected to the same line of questioning when they visit a doctor for the sniffles?

Catherine Schurz contacted 20 hospitals and urgent care facilities on the East Coast, and found that many organizations agreed with this line of questioning for women of menstruation age. They admitted there is no standard policy for testing women for pregnancy or STIs, and many said they would test for pregnancy without permission, and without even asking if the women was sexually active first, if they had any inkling the women could possibly be pregnant and withholding the information. And while I thought I had left this type of sentiment behind with college and university health centers, I experienced the same type of treatment in a Manhattan ER after I fainted and hit my head pretty hard. After hours of waiting and wondering when they’d check to see if I had a concussion, a doctor swung by, confirmed that my pregnancy test was negative, and discharged me with the advice that I should take some advil and see my primary care. Though many questions and a whopper of a head ache remained, at least I wasn’t pregnant? It makes me wonder what leads doctors to doubt the information that women are providing them is true, and what contributes to their inklings that a woman is withholding potentially telling medical information.

Have you run into this experience with doctors?